Sunday, June 2, 2013

Alive at Five Time Machine

This Thursday night is the first Alive at Five. I used to love Alive at Five. There was a magic in the air on Albany Thursdays. I would tingle with excitement as we left the Riverfront, walked up Maiden Lane, heading for the big white McGeary’s tent. My friend John would come up. We’d meet up with our friend Justin. We'd laugh, drink RBV’s, talk to girls. What a life.

Then one day it stopped being fun, and I never went back, probably never will. Sometimes that familiar tingle hits me, and I imagine what it would be like to round up the boys and do a Thursday night like old times. When summer’s coming and school’s about to break, I always think maybe we’ll do one for the heck of it, but I know we won't. John’s married. Justin’s talking kids. I couldn’t handle two beers without puking. Those Downtown Thursdays are done for me. So I’ve decided to go back to A @ 5 the only way I can: In my mind. Set time machine for July 2005, when 50 Cent sang “Just a lil bit,” and the Spurs won the NBA Championship. Let’s go back . . .

There I am: Sunglasses, pattern shorts, t-shirt, white sneakers, no socks. John’s mom just dropped us off. We prepay at McGeary’s, hit the ATM, cross the bridge and head for the hill by the river, watch the C-list musical act that Jennings booked. There’s boats parked at the shore. The place is a mob scene, 10,000 people, maybe more. It’s hot. We see John’s cousin. Justin’s friends from EG. My uncle Jack. Everyone is there. Albany is the center of the universe on Thursday nights.

After an hour, we head to the Barge. There’s usually an older crowd there. We see Lady in Red. She’s a late-twenties brunette who wears red every single time we see her, but denies it. She gets a kick out of us. She likes us. There’s a nice vibe at the Barge. Right on the river, good live band, cheap drinks. I’m sufficiently buzzed by now: 7.30PM. It’s gonna be a good night.

We roll back as the actual A @ 5 show is ending, cross the bridge to Maiden, up to Pearl, where we pass the string of bars with people sitting outside them. There’s Mark AKA Gorilla outside Mad River, and his friend who doesn’t drink. Join forces. We’re now a five-man machine as we cut the McGeary’s line with our prepaid bracelets. The Refrigerators are sound checking, so we head inside, where our friend Gary is tending bar. “Four RBV’s, one water, Gary McGeary.” He pours, I pay with a twenty. He changes me with a ten, five, four ones. The sun is about to set. The music is booming in the tent, which is filling. This is about the time when that Pearl Street tingle is ready to rupture. We look out on this sea of humanity, and John whispers, “Someday we’ll be too old for this.” I agree but I don’t believe him.

Things get blurry after that. We see the General, a small Chinese man who always talks to us. The fun usually ends at that pizza place on Pearl. I wonder if they still charge six dollars a slice. Before this night is over, we start thinking about the next Downtown adventure. Seems like we’ll have a lifetime of these before we’re done. Finished with the “food,” we head outside to say goodbye. Mark leaves with his friend who doesn’t drink. Justin takes a cab Uptown. Me and John catch a cab back to Averill Park.

Right before the driver turns right onto I-90 at the Clinton Ave. exit, I look back at Pearl Street through the rear window at 12:45AM. It’s dying. There are only a few scatterings of people where packs once were. Half the bars have closed, their neon signs dark. It looks sad, when a short time ago it was magic. The traffic light turns green. The cab hits the highway. Downtown is out of sight. We’re gone.

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Brian Huba

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